Rolleston Hall

The Rolleston Hall site has been home to a significant residence since at least the early reign of King Henry III in the early thirteenth century. It is most associated with the Mosely Family who owned it from 1622

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Rolleston Hall – General History

The Rolleston Hall site has been home to a significant residence since at least the early reign of King Henry III in the early thirteenth century.

Rolleston Hall was purchased from the Rollestons in 1622 by Edward Mosely, Attorney-General of the Duchy of Lancaster. It was in a sorry state of repair at the time being of mainly timber construction; it was bought because he liked the location, with the intention of building a far superior house. Edward was keen to escape from the ‘dark satanic mills’ of Manchester and Rolleston offered the chance of a country house life-style.

Edward had also bought Etwall Hall at around the same. Although he lived in Etwall Hall for a few years, this was sold in around 1629 to a Sir Samuel Sleigh, the Sherrif of Derby. Edward Mosely died in 1638, unmarried.

During the English Civil War, the Hall was to play a small role. In May, 1645, King Charles I came with his army, under the command of Lord Loughborough, to Tutbury Castle and some of the Royalist troops were quartered at Rolleston, under a certain Captain Symonds.

Following a fairly serious fire in 1870, the hall received much restoration entering its most impressive stage as can be seen by the below images:

A view from the South East shows the magnificent conservatory.

Entrance Hall

Drawing Room

The name most associated with Rolleston Hall is Oswald Mosely, often though, with some confusion with the more famous politician Sir Oswald Mosely who was in fact, his nephew. Oswald Mosley was born at Rolleston Hall in 1848, the eldest son of Sir Tonman Mosley, 3rd Baronet, of Ancoats. His paternal grandfather was Sir Oswald Mosely, 2nd Baronet of Ancoats. He succeeded the baronetcy on 28 April 1890.

Sir Oswald Mosley, 4th Baronet of Ancoats

A prosperous landowner, owning around 38,000 acres, as well as being engaged with farming and cattle breeding, in 1906, he popularised old-fashioned farmhouse meal bread and established a successful bakery.

Locally, Sir Oswald had the nickname ‘Baronet John Bull’ because of his amusing resemblance to the cartoon character popular at the time used to personify national pride. He died in 1915.

‘Baronet John Bull’

Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats, was the last Mosley to be born at Rolleston Hall in November, 1896. He became a Member of Parliament for Harrow in the Labour Government from 1918 to 1924 and for Smethwick from 1926 to 1931, during which time, he also became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and was principally known as the founder of the British Union of Fascists. He died in 1980.

Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats

The estate was sold in the early 1920′s. Most of the hall was demolished in November 1925 after a number of unsuccessful attempts to sell it by auction, first as a complete house and later as separate apartments.

Postcard picture

The above picture, unfortunately towards the end of its life, became the source for one of a series of postcards showing stately homes around Burton upon Trent.

All that remains now are the Ballroom which forms a two storey house, and a single storey wing dating from the 1870s known as The Old Hall.

Some remnants of the building were converted into dwellings which still exist.




Though many will be able to remember the old railway station on the site of the current one, this was not the original Burton station. It was in fact opened in 1883 to replace the first station opened in 1839, further up the line at the very end of Station Street (then Cat Street).

At the same time, the new Station Bridge was built prior to which, there was only a foot crossing between Station Street (Cat Street) and Borough Road where the new Saint Paul’s Institute and Liberal Club had recently been opened (later to become the Town Hall). The number of lines was also quadrupled to cater for much greater needs.

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1913 Railway Map

The map from 1913 shows how responsibility of the line was shared between the Great Northern, London and North Western, Midland and North Staffordshire railway companies.

Other town branch lines were operated by individual breweries. The overall effect was a town with 32 level crossings!



1612 Last Heretic – Edward Wightman

Edward Wightman of Burton-on-Trent was the last person to be executed by burning at the stake for heresy in England in 1612.

Early Life
Edward was born at Burbage, Leicestershire in 1566. He was the son of a schoolteacher and draper (cloth trader) but during his childhood he moved to Burton-on-Trent where he was educated at Burton Grammar School. After initially working in his mother’s drapery business, Edward was apprenticed by a wool cloth trader in Shrewsbury. Edward’s parents were members of the traditional Church of England with no known separatist or puritan leanings but, whilst in Shrewsbury, he became involved with, and strongly influenced by, a group of puritans headed by John Tomkys. The radical brand of Protestantism included the rejection of the trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ as well as a complete rejection of the institutionalized Church of England. This would have been extremely dangerous in Tudor times, but still pretty thin ice in the times of James I.

In 1590, he was admitted as a master into the Shrewsbury Drapers’ Company, but within a few years, he returned to Burton-on-Trent to start a clothing business. He married Frances Darbye in 1593. They produced 2 sons and 5 daughters.

When Edward returned to Burton, the religious mood had changed quite dramatically from his childhood days there when religion in the town was dominated by the local noble, Lord Paget who still promoted Roman Catholicism.

In 1583, during the interim period, Lord Paget had fled England after ending up on the losing side of some political plotting involving Mary, Queen of Scots. Henry Hastings emerged as the new local noble and political leader, and he was a committed Protestant. Under his leadership, a new evangelical puritanism emerged in Burton. Peter Eccleshall, the Burton curate, was indicted in 1588 for not using the Book of Common Prayer. A puritan evangelist, Philip Stubbes, lived in Burton for a time during the early 1590′s, thus a modest form of puritanism quickly became well-established in Burton.

The clothiers and various influential business people in Burton were very much involved in the religious transformation so Edward’s turn to puritanism was part of a town-wide trend. In 1595, Lord Hastings died, and William Paget, son of the previous noble, was reinstated in the lands of Burton. Despite Paget’s establishment as Baron in 1604, he spent little time in the Burton area so there was no reverse of evangelical puritanism in the town. This paved the way for Edward eventually becoming a radical ‘lay leader’ in the religious community.

Stapenhill Witch
In February 1596, at a time when the country was obsessed with witchcraft, thirteen year old Thomas Darling accused Alice Goodridge of Stapenhill of being a witch and possessed him with a devil. Young Thomas exhibited the classic ‘Exorcist’ symptoms such as vomiting, paralysis, and hallucinations. During his fits of spiritual possession, he would apparently be possessed by the devil one moment and the Holy Spirit the next.

The new puritan minister in Burton, Rev. Arthur Hildersham, became interested in the case, and prayed with Darling, but was unable to exorcise the boy’s demons. Another puritan minister, Rev. John Darrell, who came from nearby Ashby-de-la-Zouch was finally able to exorcise Darling and drive off his possessor.

Alice Goodridge was jailed in Derby and interrogated at Burton town hall in May 1596. Under pressure, she confessed. Many who knew of the Darling case were not convinced of the truth of the boy’s possession. It soon became a symbol in the growing political struggle between the puritan and Anglican communities. The Burton puritans sought to document and prosecute the case aggressively.

Edward Wightman took a strong interest in the Darling case and when Alice Goodridge was interrogated in Burton, Edward was one of five men who ‘examined’ her showing that he was an important and well-respected public figure and religious authority. He was actively involved in documenting the boy’s possession and involved in the ecstatic prayers associated with the boy’s exorcism. The testimonials on the truth of the boy’s claim included the signatures of Edward, Rev. Eccleshall, most of the Burton clothier community, and many established and well-connected local individuals.

The case demonstrates Edward’s highly emotional and spiritual brand of puritanism and his position of authority and leadership despite his relative youth. His involvement in the Darling case proved a turning point in his life, making him entirely amenable to the possibility of unmediated spiritual intervention. Darling claimed not just to be possessed by the devil, but engaged in a series of ‘spiritual wars’ in which both demonic and angelic voices were said to emanate from him.

In the wake of the Darling case, there was a significant backlash against the puritans. Rev. Darrell, the minister who had finally succeeded in exorcising the boy, was convicted of fraud and went into hiding. The practice of group exorcisms was suppressed and soon afterwards died out.

Edward the Radical
Partly through circumstance, Edward was driven to an even more radical separatism. In the late 1590s, England suffered a severe economic downturn after a series of very bad harvests, and several bad aspects of the economy. The cloth trade was particularly badly hit and Edward’s business pursuits failed. By 1603, Edward had purchased an alehouse in Burton and was now a simple tavern keeper, impoverished and deeply in debt. His financial standing had taken a disastrous turn, close to ruin. His swift rise to prominence in Burton society during the 1590s followed by almost as fast a fall fuelled his religious extremism.

Edward was also involved in a court case over a dispute between him and his former apprentice, Samuel Royle, from November 1600 through January 1601. For whatever reason, Edward apparently failed to appear before the court in January 1601, which may have cost him a 40 pound bond. The loss of that sizeable sum might have finished Edward off in the clothing business. The justice who handled the Royle v Wightman dispute was Sir Humphrey Ferrers, and later events suggest that Edward harbored ill feelings toward the noble.

Despite Edward’s legal and financial woes, it is apparent that he retained some degree of significant stature among the new leading puritans in Burton and still closely associated with key figures in Burton’s religious society. They apparently thought well of him and perhaps still looked to him for religious leadership.

The first documented evidence of Edward’s descent into extremism came in early January 1608. Sir Humphrey Ferrers had recently died and Edward was entertaining company in his own home. The conversation turned to Ferrers’ death and Edward’s grudge against him from the 1601 case that may have helped precipitate Edward’s ruin. Edward stated to the assembled company that he believed that the soul does not leave the body upon death, but rather stays with the body until Judgment Day, at which point it either ascends to heaven or descends to hell. Though not too shocking now, this would have been shockingly heretical at the time.

Edward became more vocal about his view of the nature of the soul and death. He continued to argue the point with local clergy. Curate Henry Aberley of Burton opted to use his own pulpit to argue against such heretical ideas, but this apparently led to bitter, and sometimes public, arguments with Edward. As a result, Edward stopped attended the Burton parish church and began worshipping elsewhere.

Despite Edward’s theological split with the established religious community, he was not abandoned by religious leaders. This is consistent with the behavior of other puritanical communities in response to other heresies. Instead of prosecuting or excommunicating the errant individual they would try to reform his views. Chief among those who engaged Edward was Burton puritan minister Rev. Arthur Hildersham, who had probably played a major role in Edward’s ascendance in the religious community a decade earlier.

Hildersham, and Rev. Simon Presse of Egginton, Derbyshire, met with Edward privately and attempted to convince him to change or moderate his view. The obstinate Edward refused and Hildersham ultimately responded by preaching against Edward’s heretical views from his Burton pulpit on March 15, 1609. Hildersham continued to correspond with Edward for a time, but eventually tired of Edward’s stubbornness and cut off the debate. Edward apparently interpreted this as a victory and became all the more convinced of the righteousness of his heterodoxy.

From 1609 to 1611, the process of engaging and attempting to ‘correct’ Edward’s view continued, but Edward became increasingly radicalized and spent his energies writing manuscripts outlining his views. He was a prolific writer, although none of his writings have survived. He was known to never leave home without a number of his books which he read and preached to anyone who would listen. Edward was only ever a ‘lay leader’ in the religious community and never held an official ministerial position. Although enjoying a number of followers for a time, by 1611 he was increasingly avoided and eventually became something of a loner.

King James I Condemnation
England had become a relatively tolerant nation under Elizabeth I but the religious and political situation changed when James I took the throne in 1603. Although King James was tolerant toward Catholics and helped liberalize the Church of England, with the famous English translation of the bible bearing his name, he saw Protestant dissenters, such as Puritans, Baptists, and Quakers, as a major problem and challenge. Among James’ great religious interests was support of catholic orthodoxy, which includes adherence to the major creeds. He took his title of ‘Defender of the Faith’ seriously and since 1607 he had been engaged with Roman Catholics over the ‘Oath of Allegiance’. Edward’s views were therefore, very much opposed to the King’s view.

Wightman set about putting together a compendium of his theology for his upcoming hearing and defense. Perhaps thinking that he would at least be allowed time to plead his case, he delivered copies of it to members of the clergy in an effort to gain support.

Now completely deluded, believing in his own righteousness and persuasiveness, he delivered a manuscript detailing his radical theology (thought to have originally been intended for Anthony Wotton) to King James I despite being fully aware of the King’s religious stance. This was a dubious move to say the least, particularly since the King had recently ordered the execution of Bartholomew Legate for heresy.

The manuscript consisted of eighteen leaves (pages). To give a flavour, it began, “A letter written to a learned man to discover and confute the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes very mightily defended with all the learned of all sorts, and most of all hated and abhorred of God himself, because the whole world is drowned therein: And seeing he hath promised to answer he knew not to what, and least he should also deal with me as the men of that faction have done already…”. The document concluded, “… and say glory be to God alone which dwelleth in the high heavens, whose good will is such towards men that he will now at the last, plant peace on the earth, and let all people say, Amen”. You may be relieved to know that almost the remainder of the document has not survived.

In February 1611, Edward interrupted Lent worship services in Burton with loud outbursts. It took significant effort to get him to quiet down. Finally, the Burton religious community had had enough. The Burton minister involved and others from Burton presented the case against Edward at the ecclesiastical visitation of Bishop Richard Neile of Westminster within a few weeks of Edward’s February 1611 disruptions. In early March 1611, Edward was summoned by Neile to Curborough, near Lichfield. Neile promptly returned to London and reported his findings to King James. The King was set on dealing with this troublesome heretic.

In April 1611, by order of the King, local church authorities issued a warrant for his arrest. The order instructed the church constables of Burton to immediately take him before Bishop Richard Neil at the Consistory Court at Lichfield Cathedral for interrogation of his religious views and for conformation to the established Anglican order. Neile’s Chaplain, who assisted in prosecuting Wightman, was William Laud, the future Archbishop of the Church of England, who was later executed himself!

The Trial
The first day of the trial was held on November 19, 1611. On the second day of the trial on November 26, the crowd was so large that the trial had to be moved to the larger space of the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin. On December 5, Edward was brought before the court for his final appearance. Throughout the trial, Edward did not attempt to defend himself. Instead, he attempted to educate them on the righteousness and intellectual rigor of his arguments, ‘clarifying’ the court’s conception of his heresies.

Sentence was pronounced on December 14, 1611. The charges brought against him included eleven distinct heresies. Part of the charge was that he believed “that the baptizing of infants was an abominable custom; that the doctrine was a total fabrication and that Christ was only a mere man and not the son of God; that the Lord’s Supper and baptism were not to be celebrated; and that Christianity was not wholly professed and preached in the Church of England, but only in part.” Other charges included several equally radical opinions.

After months of being subjected to a series of conferences with ‘learned divines’, Wightman was finally brought before Bishop Neil for the last time. Having refused to change any of his views, he was sentenced to be excommunicated and condemned to be burned at the stake following approval by King James I. Prior to his execution, he was to be placed in a public open place as an example to others who might harbour similar beliefs.

The Execution
When the execution day arrived on March 20, 1612, Edward was tied to a post on the square in Lichfield next to Saint Mary’s church and the fire was lit under him. On feeling the heat, Edward screaming out in recantation and he was pulled down, already badly burned. A written retraction was hurriedly prepared and Edward, in pain and weakness, orally agreement as it was read to him. Later, however, no longer fearing the flames, he refused to sign the retraction and blasphemed louder than before.

King James re-approved his execution and a few weeks later on April 11th, he was once more led to the stake. Once again, on feeling the intense heat of the fire, Wightman cried out in recantation again but this time, the sheriff told him he would cost him no more and commanded more faggots (bundles of thin sticks) to be thrown on to make the flames roar. Edward was burned to ashes.

Seeing that heresy still survived with a number of religious radicals still emerging, King James I lost faith in burning heretics. After the case of Edward Wightman, it was decided that those found guilty of heresy should instead silently and privately waste away in prison rather than excite others with a public execution.

It was not until 1677 that an act of Parliament expressly forbade the burning of heretics, securing once and for all, Wightman’s dubious position in history as ‘The last person in England to be burned at the stake for heresy’.



Bass Logo

Bass, founded by William Bass in 1777, is one of the most successful brewing companies of all time. When the London Stock Exchange established the original FT 30 index in 1935, listing the top 30 UK companies, Bass was included in the list.

The company was also a pioneer of International brand marketing. The Bass Red Triangle was the first trademark to be registered under the UK’s Trade Mark Registration Act 1875, as trade mark number 1!

The 1875 Act came into effect on 1 January 1876 and that New Year’s Eve, a Bass employee saw the New Year in by queuing overnight outside the registrar’s office, in order to be the first to register a trademark when the office opened the next morning.

In fact, Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton Limited received the first two registrations, the first being the Bass Red Triangle for their pale ale, and the second the Bass Red Diamond for their strong ale.

It is one of the most distinctive, identifiable and historically significant logos and brands in the World.

Bottles of Bass with the famous logo have appeared in art and literature, including paintings by Pablo Picasso who must have enjoyed the odd tipple. The above example is an 1881 painting by Manet with the famous red triangle very apparent.



L.S. Lowry

Though I can’t confess to being much of a fan myself, Laurence Stephen Lowry is one of Britain’s best loved and most famous painters, best known for his scenes of life in the industrial districts of Northern England during the early 20th century. He had a distinctive style of painting with human figures often referred to as his “matchstick men”.

The above painting is one of his best known works. The original was painted in 1961 as an oil on canvas measures approximately 21″ x 29″. It is one of a number of pictures that Lowry painted in Burton. The picture shows a brewery engine pulling a beer wagon across a the crossing in High Street, Burton, running past the Blue Posts public house and through the gap which now leads to Burton library.

Lowry often visited Burton while staying with friends. He liked the town and was partial to a pint of Bass which he maintained didn’t taste the same anywhere else. He produced numerous other sketches of Burton which were eventually published as paintings but not quite as famous as this example simply known as ‘The Crossing’.



1643 Civil War

Burton in the English Civil War
The English Civil War started in 1642 when Charles I (pictured) raised his royal standard in Nottingham. England was split between those that supported the King and those that supported Parliament. In the case of Burton, support was fairly strongly parliamentarian. One of the most prominent Burton paliamentarian was Daniel Watson of Nether Hall. Before the outbreak of the civil war, he was a lawyer but he became a captain of dragoons in the Derbyshire cavalry.

Burton’s allegiance was largely a result of its puritan following. There was some unrest in the town at the outset of the war with rumours of gunpowder being hoarded to support rebellion. Although investigations by Lord Paget concluded that this was unfounded, in 1643, there was a large explosion in Saint Modwen’s church in the Market Place which destroyed the roof and blew out the windows.

Lord Paget, Burton’s most senior figure, was clearly undecided on where his loyalties should lie. Initially, in 1642, he declared support for Parliament but in June of the same year, he switched allegiance to the King. In September 1644, he reverted back to supporting parliament, clearly trying to hedge his bets in his own interest

With its highly strategic river crossing that was noted at the time as “the chief passage from South to the North”, and situated between parliamentary Stafford and Derby and royalist Lichfield, Tutbury, and Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Burton was destined to be fought over throughout the civil war and lacking walls or natural defences, it changed hands many times.

Burton was the rendezvous for the royalist forces of the Earl of Chesterfield and his son Ferdinando Stanhope late in 1642, but the establishment of a parliamentarian garrison at Derby brought Burton to the attention of the conservative parliamentarian Sir John Gell and the rest of the Derbyshire county committee. In February 1643 Gell placed an artillery company in Burton under Major Johannes Molanus, a Dutchman who had actually come to England to assist with drainage projects in Lincolnshire. The garrison withdrew later the same month with orders to support an attack on the royalist stronghold of Newark in Nottinghamshire.

After capturing Lichfield for the king at the end of April 1643, Prince Rupert also placed a garrison at Burton, but it was promptly driven out by the forces of Gell and Lord Grey of Groby, commander-in-chief of the East Midlands Association. They installed Captain Thomas Sanders with a garrison of 200 foot, 60 dragoons, and one cannon drawn from the forces of Derbyshire. Sanders quickly deserted Gell’s command and placed himself and his troops under another parliamentarian officer, Col. Richard Houghton, and the Staffordshire county committee. Sanders was more radical than Gell, and may have feared that his appointment with only a small force in poorly defended Burton was Gell’s way of removing a potential rival.

On 4th July, 1643, that garrison was stormed in what was probably the most famous local battle of the war – ‘The Battle of the Bridge’. An army under Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, was commanded by Thomas Tyldesley (pictured), a supporter of Charles I and a Royalist commander from Lancashire, at the time having the rank of Colonel, led a cavalry charge across the bridge to attack Burton. It was a very bloody confrontation in which the church was damaged and the town was, according to Gell, “most miserably plundered and destroyed”. At the end of the battle, so much booty was taken that the Queen, who witnessed the battle, recorded that her soldiers “could not well march with their swollen bundles”.

After the battle, Burton became an important Roundhead stronghold and, largely because of the success of this attack against the odds, Thomas Tyldesley was knighted. A plaque to commemorate the event was erected on the replacement (current) bridge by the Burton Civic Society in 1993. It is still there today but goes largely unnoticed.

The royalists remained in control for the next six months and fortified the bridge, but were again driven out by Gell’s troops in January 1644. No garrison appears to have been established, and Burton was soon again under royalist control, although it was attacked and ‘plundered’ in a parliamentarian raid in April 1644.

The King’s forces from Lichfield were quartered in the town in July 1644 but they were driven out by Gell’s troops. A fresh parliamentary garrison of both Derbyshire and Staffordshire troops was installed in the town in November 1644, but by February 1645 Burton was once more under royalist control, and it was there that Charles I made his headquarters briefly at the end of May 1645. It was firmly and finally under parliamentarian control by early 1646, when the town contributed both money and beer to the parliamentarian forces besieging Tutbury and Lichfield.

A later list made in 1662 recorded that 127 former Burton parliamentarians. This was the largest count in Staffordshire with the esception of Stafford.

After the Restoration, Burton was a dissenting centre, with large Presbyterian and Baptist conventicles meeting there with five excluded ministers. This raised some doubt with Anglicans over the loyalty of the town’s population. Nonconformity remained strong in the town until the early 18th century. Within ten years of the passing of the Toleration Act in 1689, six houses were registered for dissenters and there were Presbyterian, Baptist and Quaker meetings in Burton.

A plaque to commemorate the event, erected by Burton Civic Society in conjunction with Sir Thomas Tyldesley’s regiment of the English Civil War Society, can be found on the current Trent Bridge.





Pre-1920 Adverts

1919 – George Tarver and Son, Gents Outfitters

Just in case you have any doubts over whether pupils actually dressed this way… the above picture was taken at Burton Grammar School at around the same time.



1920s Adverts

1922 – Baileys Ltd, Confectioner

1922 – Joseph Harrison, Household Removals and Storage

1922 – Heape and Company, House Furnishers

1922 – Co-operative Society Ltd, General Supplies

1922- Bates and Sons, Wholesale and Retail
1922 – Morecrofts, Auto sales


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